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First run-through for the RUSH Time Machine Tour

Only published comments... Apr 22 2011, 02:00 AM by Brad Madix
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Last post, I talked about setting up preproduction for Rush’s Time Machine tour and made VENUE Link operational. VENUE 2.9 software’s main new features are its interoperability with Pro Tools through VENUE Link, giving you the ability to set up and get recording rapidly, as well as mark sessions and “locate to markers” on playback. Through VENUE Link, I had created a brand new session in Pro Tools from my VENUE setup, with tracks arranged just as they are on the desk, and saved it as a Template.


Here’s a suggestion regarding this new Pro Tools session. At this point, VENUE must reboot to play back from Pro Tools in “Virtual Soundcheck” mode. This requires over four minutes for the Rush show. When the band hears that you are recording, they are going to come into your space and say, “Hey dude, can I hear the ______?” About the tenth time I had to say, “Sure, let me finish what I’m doing and restart. Bring me back a latte.” I decided to find a better way—here’s what I did.



Start with your main mix, but break out other items like the drum groups, bass group, and guitar group and assign these to the Pro Tools Assignable outputs available e in the patchbay. VENUE Link will automatically create tracks for these when you open a session, so you can easily return the tracks to channels through the User Assignable inputs. Use PQs or Matrices as alternate outputs, and effects inputs as returns. Now when Alex Lifeson (the guitarist) asks if he can hear himself, I just solo the corresponding channels and press the space bar. No waiting. You can even try plugs and equalization on these returns, though you’ll still need to reboot if you want to affect the actual channels. Musicians often just want to hear a part, and this is an expeditious way to let them.


Today the band will join us in the Time Machine to shake off the rust with an abbreviated run-through. I’ve laid my VENUE Profile out the way I want, checked through the lines, and I’m standing by for rehearsal, with all Pro Tools tracks armed and ready to record.


As the band begins to play, focus on gain structure first and use Pro Tools to get your gain right. Gain structure is the most underestimated component of live mixing. If I have a band for ten days, I might spend the first day or two getting proper levels at the head amps. Maybe you don’t have the luxury of a couple of days, but don’t rush the process. “Right” doesn’t mean “super hot,” nor does it mean that all of your faders line up at exactly zero. It means you have solid level at the head amp, allowing you to run your faders in a useable range without blowing up your outputs. Spend time getting proper level through the console. You can work on other details during playback.


When setting the head amps for the first time, gain the channels all the way down (with the pads in) and bring them up to get good level. One way to get levels quickly is to start with faders down and select “Gain” for the encoders on the Profile. Press the encoder down while someone plays the instrument. On release, the desk will “guess” the proper level, and the desk’s guess is often perfectly usable. At least it will be a functional starting point, and you can get to it posthaste. VENUE can even “guess” on more than one channel at a time. You can have someone play the drums and then “guess” on the kick, snare, hat, and overheads—all at once!



I encourage you to track in Pro Tools while getting levels. I like to check meters in Pro Tools’ Mix window in Narrow Mix View to get a view of a number of channels simultaneously. Also, I like Pro Tools’ metering better. I find the default metering on VENUE to be very conservative, leaving plenty of headroom even after a channel lights up red (tip: use RMS metering and set the clip threshold on the Interactions page to your liking). I’m absolutely not suggesting that the VENUE should look like a Christmas tree during your show, but if you’ve got good level on Pro Tools, you’re going to be sterling on the VENUE.


After the band plays through several songs and you are happy with the levels, drop a marker in on the session and let them play a while more. Once you’ve committed a few songs to hard drive and the band quits for the day, reboot in Virtual Soundcheck mode to allow playback and go get that cup o’ Joe. With the band gone, this is the time to start working on sounds. Locate to your “I’m happy with the gain” marker and start listening back. Even now, continue to work with gain structure foremost in your mind. If you see something that bothers you regarding head amp gain, fix it! When you reboot to the Stage Racks, VENUE will ask you if you want to transfer those changes to the head amps. Why yes, you do!


Until next time...



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About Brad Madix

I grew up playing keyboards and attended Berklee College of Music in the early eighties. I got a chance to tour with the Psychedelic Furs as the keyboard tech and worked my way up (or down?) to FOH guy. I've worked with Rush, Shakira, Jane's Addiction, Jessica Simpson, Rage Against the Machine, Shania Twain, Def Leppard, Marilyn Manson, Queensryche, and Bruce Hornsby.

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